Let's relive the most painful weeks in PlayStation history.
April 20th has a strange place in history. The evil fascist dictator Adolf Hitler was born on April 20, 1889. Famous horror author Bram Stoker died on April 20, 1912. And of course, potheads are exceptionally fond of the date (but chances are, you already knew that).
But April 20 will live in infamy among the PlayStation Faithful as a result of The Great PlayStation Network Outage of 2011, which began on April 20 of last year and lasted until May 15. For nearly a month, PlayStation Network users were left high and dry by hacker exploits. Sony took the PSN offline once it realized it was compromised, but by then the damage was done.
Relive Your Misery
Everything that happened to PlayStation Network in April and May of 2011 can be traced back to early 2010, when Sony removed Linux support from PlayStation 3. This infuriated a tiny subsection of PlayStation 3 users who utilized PS3's previous open third-party operating system functionality. When George Hotz successfully jailbroke the PS3 in January of 2011 and was subsequently sued by Sony, the stage was effectively set for a showdown with hackers.
Things began innocuously enough. Hacker group Anonymous launched "Operation Sony" in April, firing "denial of service" attacks against Sony-owned websites. But things appeared to die down when Sony and Hotz settled Sony's lawsuit. But the settlement was just the beginning.
Sometime between April 16 and 17, hackers delved into Sony's PlayStation Network and Sony Online Entertainment servers, stealing personal user data and compromising credit card information en masse. Sony first detected that something was wrong days later, on April 19, and didn't pull the PSN down until a year ago today.
By April 26, the crap had officially hit the fan. Sony admitted that the PSN had been hacked and called in the FBI for help. On May 1, Sony executives in Japan apologized for the outage, and the American government even got involved, pressing Sony's Kaz Hirai for details on what went wrong.
By May 15, the PSN was coming back online, complete with a meaty new firmware update. The PSN outage reportedly cost Sony $171 million, but all was well once more. Then again, it left an indelible and unforgettable scar on Sony's signature online service. After all, it's not every year that Sony would begin its rousing E3 conference not by showing excitement about upcoming announcements and products, but by apologizing for what had happened to a gigantic chunk of its loyal customers.
The mentality of at least some PS3 gamers changed by the time the outage was over. Many Podcast Beyond listeners noted that they no longer trusted Sony with their credit card information and instead opted to use store-bought PlayStation Network cards. Others refuse to buy anything off of the PSN at all.
Focusing on the Positive...
Regardless of how you felt during the outage, directly thereafter or today, virtually everyone can agree on at least a few things. First, even megalithic companies like Sony aren't above the fray. Indeed, rogue groups of hackers outright embarrassed the company, costing it millions of dollars and the trust of customers in the process.
Second, for better or for worse, the "free" model PSN totes should be examined. With more customer money put into PlayStation Network's infrastructure, could something like this have been avoided completely?
And finally, could something like this happen again, to Sony or one of its industry peers? Will companies always, in some way, be susceptible to hacker intrusion, thus keeping personal information a mere broken firewall away from exploitation?
There's no doubt that the PlayStation brand suffered from the PSN outage. And the timing of the outage was horrendous considering that the PS3 was starting to pick up significant steam at retail after years of languishing behind its competition. Hell, SOCOM 4 -- heavily reliant on the PSN -- came out literally the day before the outage, likely leading to the demise of Zipper Interactive. Should you choose to follow the web carefully enough, you're likely to find plenty of unfortunate side effects of the outage, affecting both Sony itself and its partners who make a living off of its products and services.
But enough with the reflections and hypotheticals. Let us know how you feel on this, the one year anniversary of the Great PSN Outage. Has your attitude towards Sony and the PlayStation brand recovered since the outage ended? Did it go unchanged in the first place? Are you comfortable putting your credit card information and personal details back into the system? Are you confident that something like this won't happen again?